Monday, January 22, 2018

Are You Up For It?

"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." - 2 Chronicles 15: 7

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

If someone challenged you to do something difficult, I mean really difficult, would you be up for the challenge without knowing what it was ahead of time? Meaning, you would have to accept or decline knowing little to no detail of the challenge.

Moreso, would it help you to decide if you were told that the outcome of that challenge would be beyond your wildest imagination? What about now, are you up for it?

If I was asked if I wanted to face the challenges I am, a couple months ago, while being told what those things would be, would I have gone through it all? Truthfully, I don't know. Sometimes, it's just better not to know.

It's hard to not only take on a challenge but, also, have the intestinal fortitude to persevere in and through it. At times, it doesn't feel worth it when the pain and heartache seem to outweigh the benefits of sticking things out.

I hope for the best in every circumstance and determine to believe the good in each person. So, when I am faced with something that continues to be difficult, why persevere? Why not give up?

While I may not have certain expectations of the outcome, I have to admit that seeing some kind of positive progress would be encouraging.

Instead, you're left wondering if you missed something along the way - an opportunity to improve yourself or change direction in the midst of a frustrating scenario.

Yet, persevering in seeing things through, there's hope for a positive outcome. Plus, the possibility of something great coming out of a dire situation drives perseverance and can create an inner excitement and anticipation.

There are so many opportunities in life to stick it out and become stronger, better equipped, individuals for it. To decide to dig in our heels and turn up the staying power.

It's true. In my own life, as time passes by and some things get really discouraging and hard, it's my determination and strength that increases and I have fresh energy to keep going, along with reading what the Bible has to say about persevering.

The Bible speaks, many times, of the benefits of holding on and seeing things through. That it's you who will see the rewards because it will be you who is changed in the process of running the race to the end. That, in turn, will be a help and encouragement to others who are struggling in their own life situation.

There is a book called Romans, in the Bible, that tells us how we can expect our character and hope to build when we persevere. Romans 5: 3-4 outlines a few of the rewards as part of going onward and upward, saying, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." This is cause not just for celebration, but it should give us an expectation that things will get better as you hang in there and a zeal to experience a well lived life.

Encouragement for the week:

Ever wonder what the point of perseverance is? What if you gave up before knowing the outcome?

Is it better to cut your losses and exit a situation relatively unscathed instead of staying with power until the end?

If you are a Christian reading this, we have the joy of receiving great hope and blessings when we persevere in all things, difficult and easy.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him along with the encouragement to persevere in any life situation.





Monday, January 15, 2018

You Can Choose

**Photo courtesy of google.ca**

Perhaps the greatest gift we have been given is the freedom to choose. To decide a different path in life. To ponder something pleasant over something dreaded. To pursue a passion and take risks instead of playing it safe.

Sometimes we perceive things in our lives as something we are held in. However, that very thing has developed an opening, though ever so slightly. One that is letting in a realization of truth. The truth of choice.

I recently experienced the enormity of choice. Just when I thought I had placed myself in a situation that had no choices, I felt God speak into my mind about that very scenario with the words, "You can decide."

"What?", I thought. How can that be? If I, initially,  believed that I must enter into this commitment as part of obeying God, and now a door of exit is being opened, how exactly does that work? It makes no sense...right?

The amount of time between me accepting the circumstance and hearing God say those three words to me was, literally, weeks. My mind was being blown as the words echoed in my head.

God was changing my perception by lovingly and eagerly telling me that there was another option. I had been met by the Creator of the universe who was giving me an amazing opportunity to decide my own life direction.

My mind never went to all the crazy things I could think of choosing.  Nor did it conjure images of anything immoral,  illegal, or unethical. On the contrary. All thoughts and ideas gravitated toward good, pleasing, and exciting things and how I could glorify God in all of them.

In the Bible, there is a book called Romans. In it, there is mention of God's will - the things He has for us to do and experience in our lives when we decide to follow Him. Romans 12:2 says, "...you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will."

That's right. What God has for us in our lives, no matter what, is good. Whether a challenge or a blessing, something good has the potential of coming from it. It couldn't be more true than it is right now.

Being free to choose excites me. It makes me do a dance that no person should ever feel good about dancing in public while expecting his or her audience to keep a straight face. I feel like I have been set free all over again. Just like the day when I said, "Yes" to following God.

So, the things I am being given freedom to choose, while scary and unknown, gives me a certain confidence to live life with an adventurous spirit, to take risks along the way, and live out loud in the fullness that God intended.

Encouragement for the week:

How would a freedom to choose change you? Your life?

Making decisions in line with desires and passions is a freedom unlike any other. Especially when they are good and pleasing.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that because of Christ, you have freedom. Don't allow your life to become hindered with debt, possessions, and immorality - the very things that will steal your freedom to live out the full life God desires for you.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. The freedom that awaits you in Him will bring so many other freeing choices for your life.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Mending Fences

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Living on a farm means there is never a lack of work. There are things that need to be done for a variety of reasons. Especially when you or your neighbor has cattle. A sturdy, well-built fence is your only guarantee of keeping a mating bull from a field full of cows. It's nothing for a determined bull to break through a shoddy and decrepit fence line.

Building or mending a fence takes time, strategy, and meticulous attention to detail. From braces to the posts, lining up the right equipment to the fence nails, it can be an all day event as most fence lines can go for miles.

However, there's no greater feeling than when a five wire barbed fence, in perfect alignment, is completed. The sweat, scratches, and pounding of posts for hours, were worth the finished product. The commitment involved in constructing the perfect fence is not for the faint of heart. It's arduous work with little room for error and no recognition from others of the work done.

Yet, if you stick with it, the rewards of following through on something to the end far surpass the hard work it took to get there. The same can be said when we know there is work to be done in a relationship. When there's a fence in need of mending.

Perhaps, it's in seeking forgiveness for something that was said in the heat of the moment. Or, maybe, it's about talking to that sibling again after too many years have passed. So many, in fact, you've forgotten what caused the silence in the first place. Like a fence, mending relationships takes work and commitment. There might even be some sweating involved.

There is a book in the Bible named Matthew. He was a disciple of Jesus and recorded much of what Jesus taught. Matthew makes a point of noting Jesus' thoughts on when we're at odds with each other.

Jesus says, "...go and be reconciled with your brother...Settle matters quickly..." (Matthew 5: 24-25). Whether a friend or family member, Jesus is telling us to waste no time in making things right and mending the fences that are broken. The time and commitment involved will be more than worth it in the end.

Encouragement for the week:

We may all have situations or relationships in our lives that need some careful mending.

That fence you've taken time to repair will be worth it when you see the finished product. Don't give up.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know that God calls us to be peacemakers and to forgive as He has forgiven you. Don't allow anything to stop you from doing what is right.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. A relationship with Him will enable you to mend the broken fences in your life.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Looking Forward

**Photo courtesy of shutterstock.com**



I can't believe it's a new year. What happened to the past twelve months? Where did the time go? It seems like an inventory of my life doesn't happen until a year has passed by.

In a way, the thought of looking back over that amount of time brings panic, regret, and disbelief. Panic over the thought that I did nothing to contribute toward something meaningful.

Regret over not being more adventurous or taking greater risks. Disbelief of how fast the days and months moved. One minute the trees are budding and the next, weather warnings of a winter deep freeze.

I've mentioned in the past that I am not a resolution maker. Yet, I will think of and work toward goals. Goals that are realistic and attainable, encouraging me to set bigger goals.

So, as I look back in time on this past year, there were a couple marks that were set and achieved. One that was especially surprising and exciting - securing a monthly spot as a volunteer freelance writer for an online ministry.

However, there is a nagging sensation in my gut that makes me feel like I missed the bigger mark of experiencing real, inner change. Do I feel any different? Did I grow in the areas I wanted to? That God wanted me to?

While I can be my own worst enemy, as we all can at times, I know that it would have been God, not me, who was keeping me on track, without fully realizing it. He would have been the one shaping me into a woman with more integrity, compassion, and love this year than last.

He would have been the one bringing opportunities that I, initially, didn't pay attention to, and the one who would have helped me understand things never figured out on my own, had I not prayed for understanding.

Incredible.

As much as the world tells us that it's all about external success and achievement, it really isn't. It's not about how much you made or what you bought. It's not even about how much you donated to charity or your church.

It's about you. The part of you that longs for something greater than social status and fame. It's the core of who you want to be that will make a worthwhile impact in the lives of others.

It's the realization that you no longer want to be self-centered but others-centered. You want to be more than in the past. I want to be more this year than last year. I want to grow in ways that the world won't recognize or celebrate.

So, while I can beat myself up for the things that, maybe, I should have accomplished in the past twelve months, there is so much more and it had to begin on the inside. I need it to be on the inside for it to matter.

Instead of looking back and making note of what should or shouldn't have happened, I'm looking forward. I'm taking what I experienced, learned and struggled with last year, and will use it to grow this year. This causes me to believe that I haven't missed the mark but am right on target.

Encouragement for the week:

What happens inside of you when you ponder the last twelve months of 2017? What feelings surface?

If you feel as though you have missed the mark, think again. You might just be on target.

If you are a Christian reading this, you know it's not about the material or professional that matters. Aim for the target to grow and change for God this coming year.

If you are not a Christian reading this, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He has great plans for you that include helping you grow and change into the person you long to be.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Real Reason

* * Photo courtesy of google.com * *

When someone I love is hurting, it's painful to stand by, being unable to do something to lessen their pain and to know what to say. Praying, for me, has been a way of helping.

At this time of year, our hearts should be filled with joy and excitement to spend time with friends and family. We should be looking forward to festive meals, relaxation, laughter, and reflection on the reason behind the season.

For years, this season used to mean loneliness, rejection, hurt, and without cause to celebrate, for me. So, it's easy to understand the plight of friends and family who struggle at Christmastime.

The reasons are many behind not feeling all too merry or engaging in the meaning of this time of year. Like having your home broken into, like my loved one did, or facing upcoming chemo treatments in the New Year, as dear friends of mine are.

My heart cries out, "This is so unfair. Why them? Why this time of year, or any time of year for that matter?" Though the questions go unanswered, it's hard to reconcile these things when hurt, frustration, and confusion are the end products.

As a Christian, while still knowing pain, I have help to heal and restore a hurting heart through my relationship with God and Jesus Christ. That is the reason for my hope and joy. A hope and joy that remains a great desire of mine to share with others.

Along with a want to reach into the depths of another person's pain filled life and pull them into hope. Hope to live another day, to trudge ahead, to dream again. Hope to look beyond the brutal reality and see the absolute truth that things will be okay and the fog will fade away with the rising sun.

So, as I celebrate another Christmas and Jesus' birth, the real reason for the season, hope stirs and rises within me. A hope I desire for those who are hurting. Not just for those I know, but for everyone who don't yet know the promise and joy that hope in Jesus brings.

Encouragement for the week:

You are loved. In your loneliness, your broken relationship, the loss of security, or whatever hurt you are facing, you are loved. Beyond measure and beyond your own understanding. There is nothing you have to do to earn this love. It's yours for the asking.

I know you're hurting, especially this time of year. I have been where you are, in that place of hurt.

I understand. I care and desire that you know the same hope and joy I found, not only for this time of year, but all year round.

If you are a Christian, it is my hope that you remember the real reason for this season, Jesus Christ, and that celebrating His birth brings fresh joy and hope into your heart.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. Reach out to Him and experience all the hope, joy, and peace that He desires to give you.



Thank you for being a dedicated reader and follower of my blog this past year. Your support and comments are greatly appreciated and encouraging to me. May you all have a very Merry Christmas. May you get caught up in the little things and do away with the trivial. May you enjoy each moment of this holy season. Time is precious and the amount we each have on this earth is unknown, so may you enjoy your life.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Detour Ahead

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**


You're going along, life is good, when suddenly - a speed bump, blind curve, or detour happens. Sometimes, a major life detour like a change in your desired career, an unexpected health issue or being burglarized.

While out for a couple hours running errands, someone I care about was robbed. Their home was breached and they were left feeling violated.

Everything they had come to know and feel secure about, had been changed. They had a pit in their stomach and as I watched them go through the realization of what had taken place, I felt violated too.

While the thieves didn't take a lot in terms of possessions, something much more valuable was stolen - the reassurance of security. We began to wonder how the theft could have happened without anyone noticing.

Maybe they were 'casing' the place days or, even, weeks in advance. Perhaps, it was someone who knew the house and occupant and wanted what was inside. These are things we may never have answers for.

Yet we're thankful that it was only things that they took and no one was harmed. That there are things that will happen in life we'll be unable to fathom or understand but if our lives and relationships remain intact, the material things don't matter.

Even though this horrible incident happened, it made me think about how fleeting life can be. When my life takes a detour, I am so grateful for my relationship with God and His Word to guide, teach, and comfort me.

While I began to think how unsettling it would have been if my home had been broken into, I was quickly reminded of a verse in the Bible that appears in a book called Matthew.

Matthew was one of Jesus' (God's Son) disciples who followed Him, closely, through His short ministry of three years. In this particular verse, Matthew is writing the words spoken by Jesus, who said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Chapter 6, verse 19). Wow.

Jesus could not have been more wise to say what He did. Not only did it put the robbery into perspective but it was also an appropriate reminder for me about how it shouldn't be about the material things we possess while we are living out our time here on Earth.

That it's more critical for us to be concerned about the relationships in our lives. To ensure that we're okay when the bumps in the road happen and to focus on others instead of the tangible 'treasures' taking up room on a bookshelf.

Encouragement for the week:

The stuff we have will wear out, fall apart, and break. Almost everything we own can be replaced while a valued relationship, cannot.

If you have hit a detour in your life, take a pit stop in the valuable relationships of your life and be comforted.

If you are a Christian, you know the keys to success do not lie in what you own. Let your life be all about relationship, both with God and each other.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He longs to be in a relationship with you so that He can help you navigate the blind curves of life.


















Monday, December 11, 2017

Just Remain Calm

**Photo courtesy of google.com**

After a time of hellish difficulty, what do you do to bring a calming effect? Whether it be a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual difficulty. Does the effect come in the way of a cup of your favorite tea? A good cry? A cozy fire? Maybe a walk in a quiet place?

Lately, I have been trying to remain calm in the midst of returning to part time work after being unemployed for twenty-one months. I have to admit that while there was gratitude, I was also freaking out.

While it was the beginning of a new adventure in a role I had never done before, it was something that I knew would be an extraordinary adjustment. I would have to re-think my schedule and squeeze things I did in a week into a couple days off. There would be much more planning and arranging involved than before.

It is somewhat of an overstatement to say that I was feeling overwhelmed. Even though I knew that the new job was exactly what God was calling me to, it didn't necessarily mean that I was ready for it. There was anxiety about how well I would do and learn within an office environment again.

To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to the new chapter in my life and there were many long conversations where I spilled my guts about how scared I was to lose some freedom and be seconded to a desk. I guess I imagined things manifesting themselves a bit differently when I started working again.

Yet, when it came to the night before my first day back in the blue collar world, there was one person I could truly count on to talk me down 'off the ledge' of my inner turmoil - God. I began to recall situations of the past when God came to my rescue when I was 'losing my cheese' about fearful things that I knew were coming, so this situation was no different. It was obvious what I had to do.

I sat on the couch in silence and began to read God's Word. More specifically, times in the Bible when people struggled with their present circumstances and how God intervened in their thoughts of fear and anxiety.

It wasn't long before I felt the calm and steady reassurance of God's voice in the text to the people who worried - and there were a lot of people throughout its history who fretted - from kings to prophets.

There is a book in the Bible called Isaiah. In chapter 7 of the book, it talks about a king by the name of Ahaz who was petrified about fighting against a group that was very powerful. In fact, Ahaz's anxiety was so extreme about this army that his own people were shaking with fear.

Isaiah, a great prophet, was directed by God to deliver a special and personal message to Ahaz. He said to Ahaz, "Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid." (Isaiah 7:4). Isaiah then went on to tell Ahaz that his military efforts against the enemy he dreaded, would be successful and the land would be laid waste.

Granted, this was an extreme encouragement in a very extreme set of circumstances but, ultimately, Ahaz was greatly encouraged and succeeded in overcoming his own strife. So, in turn, I was encouraged. That no matter what I was facing with going back to work, I had the calming effect within needed to get me through any scenario I'll face as I transition into this new season of life.

Encouragement for the week:

Are you facing something in your life that is causing you a lot of anxiety? I am there and completely understand.

It's hard to believe that you'll ever get over the feeling of being afraid...but you will.

If you are a Christian, you have the wonderful reassurance offered through God's Word and covering prayer. You can be calm and confident in all you do because you have these supernatural tools.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He has the beautifully calming reassurance that you are desperate for in your life right now.